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Deborah Cruz

Back to School Brain Food Homemade Granola Bar Recipe

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

School is back in session and it’s in person this year. Let’s be honest, it is exhausting peopling these days, even for kids (especially those old enough to know better). My girls are back in school after the longest 17 months in the history of their world; pandemic problems even in the first world suck. They come home hungry and in need of a pick-me-up. I want to give them comfort and listen over a healthy snack. One of my girls’ favorites is my back to school brain food homemade granola bar recipe.

I’ve been making this recipe for almost as long as my girls have been alive. They’ve requested it more times than I can count and I’m not mad at them about it. I love them too. This granola bar recipe is quick, easy and 100% customizable and goes great in breakfast parfaits too.

There is something reassuring and organic about making food with love for your children and knowing what’s in it, no preservatives.  In fact, I just made a big batch earlier this week for their first week back to school! It’s Gabi’s first week in high school so I needed to give her all the comfort I could.

I used to make this recipe with the girls and we’d have a blast making it together and enjoying it as a snack with a huge glass of organic milk (wouldn’t do the hormones for my girls..but that is an entirely different post about precocious puberty). These granola bars also make a super awesome topping on French Vanilla yogurt.

Back to School Brain Food Homemade Granola Bar Recipe

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup brown rice flour
  • 3/4 cut shredded coconut
  • 1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 3/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips or raisins or other dried fruit of your choice!

Mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl.

Back to School Brain Food Homemade Granola Bar Recipe

Line 9×13 pan with foil and spread mixture.

Granola Bars Goodness

Back to School Brain Food Homemade Granola Bar Recipe

Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes, let cool a bit and then cut into squares.

Back to School Brain Food Homemade Granola Bar Recipe

Wrap in cling wrap and eat within about a week. They are still good after a week, but dry out a bit and become crumbly.

The best part is that it’s so customizable to your family’s taste by simply switching the nuts, dried fruits or adding peanut butter ( or whatever chips you’d prefer) into these delicious granola bars. I promise your kids will be begging you to make this back-to-school brain food homemade granola bar recipe. Eat it alone, with milk, in a parfait or with some fruit as part of a bowl; perfect for breakfast, on the go or an after-school or late-night snack.

What is your favorite back to school brain food recipe?

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DIY Bedroom Storage Ideas for Your Home. DIY Bedroom Storage Ideas for Your college dorm, DIY Bedroom Storage Ideas for Your apartment

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Lacking storage space in a house or apartment is a common problem that many homeowners can relate to, especially at this time of year, as kids are packing up their entire lives and moving into college dorms and houses. In these instances, sometimes your bedroom is the only room that is actually yours. The space inside of a bedroom has its limitations, usually of the space variety.You need creative DIY bedroom storage ideas for your home, apartment and college dorm to maximize your spaces and make it your own. Our bedrooms are where we decompress. You want it to be functional and inviting at the same time. To do this, it helps to have some clever storage solutions.

Here is a compiled list of some of the best DIY bedroom storage ideas.

Install Shelves Along the Perimeter of Your Walls

When you have a small bedroom, like a dorm room, the easiest way to make it look bigger is by adding shelves along the perimeter of your walls. You can also go crazy and install a wardrobe for your bedroom. Not only will this give you more storage space and an uncluttered feeling in your room because there won’t be so much stuff on display, but they’ll also offer some privacy for when you’re changing clothes.

Use Crown Molding as a Shoe Rack

If you’ve got so many shoes (like me) and don’t have much bedroom space for storage, this is something worth considering. Turn your crown molding into an instant shoe rack! All it takes is some mounting hardware to attach the bracket at just the right height off the ground so that you neatly arrange your heels where they belong. Plus, because it’s hidden behind doors or curtains, what more could anyone ask?

Baskets 

A basket can be a great way to store things in your bedroom without an immediate home. For example, you might want to keep some lotion or sunscreen on the bedside table but not always within arm’s reach when getting out of bed. Instead of taking up space with multiple items on your nightstand, put them all into one container and place them on the side of the nightstand (in a drawer or under the bed) where they won’t move around too much.

Built-in Nooks

Built-in nooks are a great way to increase your bedroom storage space. If you have an unused closet or wall space that you can fill with shelves and cabinets, this option might work for you.

They take up floor space, but the payoff will be more than makeup for it. You won’t need to worry about getting out of bed whenever you want something from under the bed anymore because everything will be within arm’s reach on built-in shelving units. Plus, when guests come over, it’ll look so cozy with all those books lining your walls. So there’s no downside to taking advantage of available surfaces like these!

Shelf Dividers

To easily organize items on your shelves, it’s a good idea to have dividers. It makes seeing what is in each section much easier than just one big pile of stuff you can’t see through. Plus, they’re cheap compared to buying new shelves and nails for them. 

Use Your Radiator As Shoe Rack

If you live in a small space and don’t have much storage, use your radiator as a shoe rack. For example, you can buy a shoe holder that fits your radiator and then use it to store shoes.

The best part about using the radiator for storing shoes is that they’ll be off the ground and out of reach from pets or children who might accidentally get into them.

With these tips, you can have a cozy and neatly arranged room. Of course, some might work better than others, or perhaps a combination of these would be best. Whatever solution you find may require an investment in time and money, but it will pay off with the extra space that comes with it.

What’s your best DIY bedroom storage ideas for your home, apartment or college dorm?

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back to school, must have supplies for college

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Kids are getting ready to go back to school in person again soon. I don’t know about the rest of you but we are ecstatic. I loved the bonus pandemic year home with my girls (I truly did) but it was challenging and it was hard on everyone involved. The girls deserve a normal high school experience and I can’t wait to watch them have it together.

All that being said, last year was long and the kids got cheated and moms never got a day off, not even an hour in the day because thanks to pandemic hyper anxiety and depression, moms were on call ( if not actively tending to meltdowns) every minute of every day. Who am I telling? You know. If I wasn’t worrying they would contract coronavirus, I was terrified they were getting suicidal and that might have been the worst part of everything. I wasn’t just meeting needs, I was anticipating spiritual, psychological and physical needs. I was a damned mom medium and I am exhausted.

My girls are not the only ones going back to school. Kids all over the world are making the leap from virtual to in-person over the next few weeks from kindergarten to university and moms everywhere are having high impact, stop you in your tracks panic attacks predecessed by elation and followed by extreme mom guilt because how can we put our own comfort above our children’s safety and send them back to school but really it’s all about everyone’s mental health.

Here is a definitive list of what college kids need this year before returning to school:

Therapy appointment

I am serious, all kids from 4-24 ( and all the adults) need regularly scheduled therapy appointments for re-entry into the real world and out of the zoom world and the best way to do that is by taking an hour every other week and meeting with their therapist over ZOOM. Baby steps and it works. The girls have been in therapy since the pandemic started.

Ergonomic Office Chair

Thanks to Flexispot I was able to personally try out the Soutien Ergonomic Office Chair and it is amazing and I don’t say that lightly. I’ve worked from home for the past 12 years and spend a huge amount of my time sitting at a desk. The thing is that in the wrong chair that means back pain, neck pain and feeling pretty awful. I’ve been using this chair since the spring and it alleviates all of that and it is very comfortable. I love it and will be sending one with each of my girls when they head off to college in the next couple of years because if I can’t be there to make them comfortable, you better believe that I’m sending them a chair that does.

CoVid Vaccination

Not to be that person but if you can, please get your kids their CoVid vaccination before school start back not only to keep them safe from coronavirus and keep others safe but to give your kids peace of mind. You think the long-term effects of CoVid are worrisome ( and they are) well, the effects on everyone’s mental health, even those fortunate enough to avoid contracting the virus, are devastating. It’s too much. Kids have enough to worry about as is, as parents, we need take this off their plate and make the decision to do the responsible thing for the greater good.

Lodge Baking Ware

It’s been a minute since I’ve been in college myself but I do remember making a few meals once I had an apartment and good bakeware was (and is) always appreciated. To be honest, I always remember my mom having cast-iron skillet ware and they were her favorites because they cooked evenly and completely. Recently, through the generosity of Lodge I tried out a few basic pieces myself;

Dual Handle Grilling Basket, Pizza Pan and the Casserole Pan and they are great for grilling, cooking pizza and making my mom’s chicken broccoli casserole, three staples I’ve taught my girls for college.

Meters OV-1-B Headphones 

These headphones are perfect to buy ahead of your teens going to college. My girls are in high school and like all teenagers they love to play their music very loudly the new fashion-forward Meters OV-1-B Headphones provide a win-win solution for both parents and their children. These headphones feature cutting-edge audio quality and a trendy design with volume unit (VU) meters on each earcup, giving teens a headset they’d actually want to wear while empowering parents to monitor how loudly their child/teen is playing their music. 

Each VU meter features a customizable RGB backlight, letting young listeners alter the color and brightness of their VU meters to match any style or mood. These real, active VU meters measure the headphones’ input, replicating the meters found on professional-grade bass amplifiers used in live musical performances, and giving parents a discrete way to ensure their child is enjoying music at a safe volume.

Face Masks

As much as we all thought that the pandemic was coming to an end, Delta variant had other plans. Now, there are surges everywhere and if you are sending your kids off to university you are probably worrying about them anyways so just load them up on face masks, disposable or some cool ones

Triple-Layer X-STATIC® Mask 

has a removable filter (that you can cut and tailor to your own face shape) and the layer closest to the face is made with X-STATIC® silver yarn. Used by US Special Forces and NASA astronauts, X-STATIC® yarn is 99.9% pure silver, making it one of the most effective antimicrobial and antiviral materials for use in textiles. 

  • Antimicrobial and antiviral
  • Highly effective in hot and wet environments
  • Permanent (silver is irreversibly bound to a polymer so it becomes a physical part of the fiber) and performance does not diminish over time (X-STATIC® has been tested for more than 250 washes with virtually no reduction in performance)

The masks are reusable and washable and come in a pack of two masks (so you can wear one while the other is in the wash). 

Last but not least, send our child off to college with lots and lots of love and support. Encourage them to spread their wings, meet new people, and try new things because that’s what college is all about…growing up and learning to live life on your own terms, becoming the person you want to be with no regrets.

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Olympic gymnast , GOAT, Simone Biles chose mental health over Olympic glory, lost in air, Tokyo Olympics, pandemic

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

Simone Biles did the unthinkable for an Olympian athlete, she withdrew from the individual all-around competition at the Tokyo Olympics to focus on her mental health just a day after her dramatic withdrawal from the team competition. While I found it initially shocking, not because of why she withdrew but that she chose to walk away at all, especially in a world that marginalizes mental health. Simone Biles chose mental health over Olympic glory. I find her to be incredibly brave and the kind of role model our daughters need. What I really found shocking is some people’s negative reaction to it.

“I have to do what’s right for me and focus on my mental health, and not jeopardize my health and well-being,” the decorated athlete told reporters.

To be clear, putting your mental health first is hard, especially in a society that values being number 1 over almost everything else. Quitting is seen as a weakness. We are taught from birth to work hard to achieve our dreams with no regard to the sacrifice and cost to ourselves. Everyone else in the world is competition and our goal is to win. But when you fight that hard to win, something will get lost, often ourselves.

I was talking to someone and their reaction to the Simone Biles situation was that, “she choked and she is selfish because she chose to quit rather than to continue on as part of the team. She took a spot that could have been given to someone else. She threw away an opportunity. She let her team and America down.” This person was visibly annoyed. This person who is not an Olympic athlete nor a competitive athlete. This person who very single-mindedly admonished her for “giving up.” I was flabbergasted because where I saw strength and courageousness, this person saw weakness.

As someone who struggles with her own mental health, as many of us do especially after this pandemic, I can assure you that Simone Biles choice to withdraw was probably one of the hardest decisions that she’s ever had to make. Gold medals are cool and every Olympic athlete spends their life training, sweating and sacrificing in hopes of winning one and the glory and recognition that it brings in their sport. So for her to choose her mental health over her pride is telling and one of the most mature and mentally healthy things I’ve ever witnessed.

Simone Biles chose mental health over Olympic glory and it’s the bravest thing ever.

In all actuality, Simone put her team first by knowing her own mental and physical limitations. Biles confirmed she was not injured but felt her poor vault would jeopardize the team’s chances for a medal. “I felt like it would be a little better to take a back seat, and work on my mindfulness,” she said. “I didn’t want the team to risk a medal because of my screw up.”

Biles admitted that the stress of competing at the Tokyo Olympics, the mounting burden of competing at a pandemic Olympics after the past 16 months of lockdowns and restrictions, may have finally taken its toll.

According to Time, days after arriving in Tokyo, an alternate on the team tested positive for COVID-19, and another alternate was placed in isolation because she was a close contact. “Today was really stressful,” she said. “The workout this morning went okay, it was just the 5.5-hour wait—I was shaking, and barely napped. I’ve never felt like this going into a competition before. I tried to go out, have fun and after warming up in the back I felt a little better, but once I came out here, I felt, no, the mental is not there. I need to let the girls do it and focus on myself.”

We talk about privilege and as a Mexican American woman I’ve felt how privilege works against those who don’t have it firsthand. It wasn’t until within the last 5 years that it hit me just how different it is to be a white man and a Latina woman. For example, I will never know what it feels like to walk down the street alone at night and not feel afraid.

I had no idea that privilege extended to mental health and those who don’t struggle so easily look at those who do as weak. We are not weak; we are strong we learn to bend as to not be broken. If you are really strong, you fight to be your own advocate and that is exactly what Simone Biles did. Backing out wasn’t giving up, it was standing up for her own well-being.

I struggle with my own mental health issues and I’ve had to do a lot of work since my diagnosis 20 years ago. It’s taken a lot of time, understanding, patience, therapy, education and learning to love myself enough to do what needs to be done in spite of what others expect. Intuitively it feels selfish to choose me over others but if I don’t choose myself, my own health and mental health, as a priority who will? I am my own responsibility and I am responsible for my actions. More importantly, I am responsible for my family and if I can’t take care of myself, how can I take care of them?

The past year has been trying on everyone’s mental health. There has been a shift in the way we think. Everyone is a potentially deadly threat due to CoVid. Being in public is exhausting and it’s impossible to feel safe during a world health crisis. Anxiety and depression are a symptom of the new normal. It’s no one’s fault, it is what it is. It’s lingering after effect of the pandemic that every single one of us has been touched by because it is impossible to be normal when nothing else is.

It is counterintuitive for us to choose ourselves over society’s expectations. As humans, especially as Americans, our default setting is that we choose glory over our own good. We choose to push through over sitting with. We want to be the best at all costs. To save ourselves, we have to unlearn all of this to be the stronger and better version of ourselves because, to be honest, the default settings suck. They only work if you want to be a basic bitch with no free will of your own; no responsibility for yourself. It’s brave to choose you. It took a lot of courage for Simone Biles to recognize her limits and withdraw from the competition. She didn’t give up. She did the hardest thing possible, she publicly chose her mental health over what other people perceive as her responsibility.

As a society, we need to change the narrative. Choosing your own health, mental or physical, or your own dreams over the limited expectations that the world holds for you is good. It’s the hard decisions that make us who we are. Going along with something that is detrimental to your health and mental well-being is the most insane thing you can do. If you’re doing that, stop it.

If she had continued on in the Olympics and ended up having a full breakdown, the world would have gasped and said, she should have told someone and withdrew, the Olympics are not worth her sanity. She would have been embraced with empathy but since she made the brave decision to know her own limitations and quit before she was broken, she is being criticized for letting her team down.

The world is a duplicitous place and the people who cry when someone commits suicide and asks why they did it are the same people who mock those who set boundaries they don’t understand. Simone Biles didn’t do a selfish thing and choose herself, she chose the right thing for her and her teammates. She made the hard choice for the right reasons. We should all take a lesson from Simone Biles and choose our health over what other people expect of us. I’m glad our sons and daughters get to see her choose her mental health over a gold medal because that’s much more important than winning. You don’t get to be GOAT without being a trailblazer and she is without a doubt GOAT for life.

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why luxury fashion is an investment

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Spending money is something I take very seriously. I’m not cheap by any means but I know how hard it is to earn money and I know what it feels like to not have it so I’m frugal. I don’t deprive myself but if I buy something it has to be worth it to me…in some way. I don’t believe in waiting for special occasions so I want to invest in things I can appreciate every day and I want to appreciate every day like it’s the last day.

I’m don’t usually shop at Walmart or Target for clothes, shoes or handbags for myself (though on occasion I have found some cute, quality items) but as I’ve grown older, I’ve learned to differentiate between quality made and disposable fashion. I know the difference between throwing my money away and making an investment and I’m here to tell you that an investment in your overall happiness and quality of life is just as important as investing in a good piece of jewelry or property.

Today you can find clothes, shoes, handbags and watches ranging from a few tens of dollars to hundreds or even thousands of dollars depending on if it’s an original piece of couture by Dior, a high-end luxury piece off the rack like Zimmerman, a midrange dupe by a less expensive designer like Steve Madden, fast fashion like Primark or a mega mass-produced copy of a dupe sold on Shein.  You choose your own fashion adventure but keep in mind, that not all products are created equal but they all have their place. Most people own reasonably priced pieces with a few luxury pieces interspersed within their wardrobe.  Owning luxury items is not easily accessible to everyone and to be honest, not everyone cares about the brand name. 

But thanks to many amazing brands, you can still have a quality fashion wardrobe on a budget if you are an intelligent and patient buyer without always paying the highest price. For example, just look at the GMT Master II guide. But the question remains: why buy a luxury item, when you can get it for less? Here are some valid reasons to wear a luxury watch! 

1. To be at the forefront of technology 

When we talk about being at the cutting edge of technology in the watchmaking sector, some will quickly think of the famous Apple Watch. Yet the largest watches are a thousand times more complex.  Owning a luxury watch means having years of innovation, research and testing on your wrist, each more complex than the next.  In short, wearing a luxury watch means having an object designed and built down to the last detail, thanks to decades of know-how.  The big brands carry out all the stages of production: from the casting of gold alloys to the assembly of the movement elements, the case, the dial and the bracelet, including machining and finishing. It is a sign of the times, and a sign of fashion. 

2. For social status

Wearing a luxury watch is an indescribable feeling. A feeling of confidence, exclusivity, specialness which can only be found with the biggest brands. This is valid for you, but also for others. Your high-end watch is more than just a watch. It is a symbol. It says to the world that you belong in all the rooms. When you wear luxury fashion you know who you are and it shows.

3. For the universe that goes with it 

Having a luxury watch on your wrist encompasses a whole universe. You don’t just walk into a Rolex store. You enter the world of the brand. Specific smells, watches displayed in a certain way and salesmen dressed in costumes. It’s an experience. In addition, the greatest watch models have a unique history.  The Rolex Submariner for example highlights its crossing of the Atlantic. Omega’s Speedmaster and his conquest of the moon. These watches do more than carry a story: they feed the legend. 

4. For an irreproachable quality

The precision of assembling a luxury watch is comparable to that it takes to plan the trajectory of an earth-moon rocket. In other words, surgical precision. Wearing a luxury watch means having all risk insurance on your wrist. You have gone away for several decades with your timepiece, if not several generations. To give you an idea of ​​the performance of these little jewels of watchmaking, NASA has equipped an astronaut with an Omega. This one remained 365 days in space.  

5. To make an investment 

When you buy an after all mundane watch, you are spending money. This is called a liability. On the other hand, the purchase of a luxury watch, on certain models, is a real investment. The watch will gain in value over time. After a few years, you will be able to resell it with a nice added value. This is called an asset. 

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Ways to grow closer to your spouse, ways to grow stronger as a family

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

It’s a little frightening how many people I know my age have gotten divorced recently. I’m sure the pandemic didn’t help. You really get to know someone when you’re trapped in a house with them for 16 months. CoVid was a marital stress of epic proportions. I’m sure even the healthiest couples thought about it at least once during the past few months.

This is why I am constantly trying to think of ways to grow closer to my spouse and ways to grow stronger as a family.

Some of the couples I thought were perfect for one another, called it quits quietly. Divorce is, unfortunately, pretty prevalent these days with about 39% of all marriages ending in an uncoupling. Let’s be honest, no one gets married to get divorced but no one gets married to be unhappy either. Honestly, if the marriage isn’t working out, there are only 3 ways it can go 1) work together to grow together and hope it’s enough 2) do nothing and stay in a miserable marriage (this shouldn’t even be an option) 3) divorce and move on with your life.

The thing is sometimes there is someone to blame, sometimes people just fall out of love and sometimes people grow apart. It’s not a crime but it’s not exactly the happily ever after any of us dreamed of. People are busier than ever before; kids are overscheduled, parents are overworked, overwhelmed and exhausted and no one has time to just be present anymore. This is where things can start to slowly fall through the cracks and no one even notice it.

The best thing we can do as couples is spending quality time together; one-on-one facetime, listening and touching. Hugs, holding hands, kissing and saying I love you may seem trivial because you assume the other person just knows but they don’t. Words and actions matter. It never hurts to speak it into existence. Take the time, say it and do it. It can mean the difference between 2 months and 20 years. This applies to building relationships with your children too.

9 ways to grow closer to your spouse and ways to grow stronger as a family

Eat Together

Every day, everyone is in a hurry to get to work or school. Usually, breakfast is hurried, lunch is spent at work or school so make dinner count. This is something my parents do and something, the Big Guy and I have made a point of doing. Dinner every night at 5, unless there is an extracurricular, in which case, we all wait until we’re all there. Sharing meals is one of the best ways to come together as a family and check in with one another.

Whenever you share a meal, stay focused by implementing a no phone and no television rule. Instead, be present and talk to one another.  

Do the boring stuff together

Chores and errands often feel like a lot of work and no fun. Obviously, kids (and adults alike) would rather spend their days with friends, relaxing, watching movies or doing anything else other than the menial stuff. Everyone who lives in the house should be responsible for doing their part of the chores and if you do it right (we add loud Latin music, lots of dancing and laughing and a definite start and end time) it can be a great way to bond as a family. Have a list of tasks ready and assign them accordingly; you can perform them together at a set time during the week or weekend when you all can do them together.

Doing chores together fosters teamwork; if one experiences a difficult time, those who complete their tasks first can help and that tiny act shows love. If your kids have demanding schedules, give them deadlines to complete their chores. They’ll soon learn that performing duties together makes it more fun and fast than doing them alone. To make it more rewarding, have something to look forward to afterward, like enjoying a special meal or going out to the movies.

One-on-one time

Spending time as a family is great, but don’t forget to have one-on-ones with each other. It’s about quality not quantity. You can spend half an hour with each of your family members on different days. It’s as simple as asking what they’d like to do. Having one-on-ones with parents is crucial for kids; you get to discover what’s going on in their life away from home and their needs or troubles. One-on-ones with your partner is what feeds the intimacy that will get you through the hard times. Give your partner your full attention when there are no distractions; you can discuss issues to do with family and individual hopes, dreams, and aspirations.

Laugh together

Laughter is said to be food for the soul; it makes a bad day better and helps you bond as a family. Laughing stimulates your immune system and reduces stress; it has been proven to actually add to one’s life. Enjoy every moment you get to share in laughter, whether your husband ripped his pants showing off his killer dance moves at an impromptu kitchen dance party or you’re watching funny TikToks with your family (something we do often as an after-dinner activity). Whenever possible, create time to share stories, play games, or just cut up and laugh together. It relieves tensions and models to not take yourself too seriously to your children.

Attitude of gratitude

Family members do a lot for each other without expecting anything in return; saying thank you after a good deed can go a long way in making someone feel valued. Be appreciative by taking the time to surprise a family member with a gift, note of gratitude, or simply say “thank you” when one does something for you. It teaches respect and instills an attitude of gratitude.

Create family traditions

Family traditions and rituals enable you to create time for each other and memories; they shouldn’t just be for the holidays. Create routines like family movie nights, carving out pumpkins, game nights and baking days, weekly or monthly. Suppose there is an activity that you all enjoy doing, such as playing soccer, attending festivals, or picking strawberries during summer, do them together. These traditions ensure that even when the kids move away, they’ll want to make time to attend and be together with the rest of the family because of the fond memories they have of doing them in the past.

Family vacations

For us, travel is top of the list of things to do to ensure our family grows together. Going away on regular trips gives you quality time as a family, away from busy schedules and school. It allows you the space and time to be present with one another while making new memories together. Include everyone in the planning so that no one feels left out, including the kids. If going away on vacation sounds like fun, start planning, say a month earlier. Include it in the family calendar and inform everyone. Weekend getaways with your spouse can really reignite the fires of romance too and it doesn’t have to be far, just a local hotel will do where you can be man and woman and not just mom and dad.

Exercise as a family

Exercise is personal and I love my time alone, if I’m being honest but other times, I love long walks with my husband, bike rides as a family or a fun HIIT dance workout with my teen girls. If your family is into fitness, working up a sweat together is a healthy and fun way to spend time and bond with each other. Exercising together doesn’t require you to sign up for a boot camp, though that’s also a viable idea. Find simple ways to stay active while outdoors or indoors. When it’s warm, take a walk, run or bike around the block or to the park, create an indoor gym or plan workouts and do them together. If you have a furry friend, take him out for a walk together. It’s not about what you do, it’s about moving and being together.

Make time for family meetings

Meeting as a family is essential for you to check in with each other, discuss plans, or air grievances. We do this daily at dinner time. Family meetings also create an excellent time to discuss upcoming events like chores to perform during the weekend, day trips, or vacations. Schedule meetings on your calendar or check in with everyone to know their availability if it’s impromptu. Let everyone send in their items or issues for the agenda so that all grievances are discussed. To make these meetings effective, establish some guidelines.

Family is the most important thing in life, couples, siblings and parents are all a vital role in it. It takes a lot of time and effort to keep everyone together and thriving. We intentionally set an example early on so that our girls would grow up placing a high value on family. The bottom line is that family is everything so enjoy and cherish your family in all the ways. Never lose sight of the fact that marriage and parenting take effort and don’t just happen. Remember to not take one another for granted and tell people how you feel, happy or sad, before things go left unsaid and unheard for too long.

These are just a few of the ways, I work on my family and my marriage every day. It’s not the only way but it is the way that works for us. What are your best tips for ways to grow closer to your family and ways to grow stronger as a family?

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Easy Tips to Grow Your Savings Today for a More Financially Secure Tomorrow

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

As I get older and I have time to breathe, out from under the weight of all the firsts of being newly married and a new mother, my dreams are once again growing. I can see clearly and I know what I want for our future. The time for pressing on, pushing through and getting by is over. I want to live in abundance without fear of how to get through the next catastrophe. I want all the easy tips to grow your savings today for a financially secure tomorrow.

I’ll be honest with you; I’ve never been one to want to be rich. But I want enough money to not worry about how to afford the life I want to live. I grew up in a blue-collar family with a stay-at-home mom and 6 siblings. We learned to get by that was our state of existence. Savings is not an option when you are living paycheck to paycheck. Don’t get me wrong, we were happy and we had food, shelter and love. When it comes down to it, we were luckier than most but I don’t like the anxiousness that comes with being the adult in the situation. I want to be financially comfortable.

Whether we want to admit it when we’re younger or not, saving money is important for securing our family’s future. It’s the very thing that can help you move to your dream home, ensure you have an emergency fund saved up and pay for things like your kids’ high school and college tuitions, quinceañeras, memory-making family vacations and their weddings. 

Having savings goals gives you something to work towards, helping to motivate you to stick to your budget. It might not be fun saving but it’s extremely satisfying reaching a savings goal or paying off bills, but what happens when you get there? Growing your savings can boost your assets and provide you with even greater financial security for the future.

Do you want to be more financially comfortable? Tired of living paycheck to paycheck. Sick of feeling like you’re working your butt off and have nothing to show for it? Could you do more to grow your savings? Take a look at some of the following ideas.

Easy Tips to Grow Your Savings Today for a Financially Secure Tomorrow

Choose the right kind of savings account

Is your savings account providing you with benefits? If you’re using an ordinary savings account, you could be missing out on valuable interest that could help you grow your savings. Learning how to choose the right savings account can help you find an account with great interest rates, helping you earn money on your savings. Work smarter not harder.

Try a side hustle to put more money away

Starting a side hustle is a great way to add to your savings. But know going into it that side hustles take work, a lot of work. It won’t be easy but it will be worth it. I’m a freelancer so I am a queen of side hustles. Many people take on a side hustle to generate an extra income that can help them reach their savings goals quicker than expected. Have you considered mining Bitcoin as a way to earn some extra money? It could be an enjoyable and profitable side hustle that could even turn into a full-time venture. Explore different side hustle ideas to find a good fit, and see how it could benefit your finances.

Invest your savings wisely

Investing your savings is another way to grow them. You’re never too old to learn how to invest, with some options that are ideal for novices, as well as more experienced investors. Some employers provide investment schemes that can help you invest a portion of your salary, or you can work with a broker to help you find the right sort of investments for you. Having investments can be a great way of boosting your savings, but it’s important that you make yourself aware of the risks before you commit. 

Find ways of cutting back to allow you to save more

Is there more that you could be doing to save more? There are ways you can save money every month you might not have thought about. From haggling with your phone and internet provider to cutting back on your energy use, you could make a lot of additional savings each month. Take a look at your outgoings and set yourself a target that will help you spend less so that you can save more.

Being able to save is a huge achievement – a lot of people struggle to save money successfully. But once you’re in the habit of saving, you can take things to the next level by finding ways of maximizing your savings to boost your family’s finances. With so many ways to grow your savings, make sure you take advantage to help ensure a bright future for your family.

What’s your best easy tips to grow your savings today for a financially secure tomorrow?

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Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Unlike most people, I don’t want to be young again. It was a blast the first time around but I had to learn a lot of hard lessons. My life is a life well lived and well-deserved but lately, as my girls have become teenagers, I feel infinitely older. Don’t get me wrong, I love being the mom of teenage girls. They are so much fun and, with my girls, it’s like having a couple of built-in best friends. But they are so beautiful and flawless, as teen girls are, that I can’t help but notice that they are the present and I am the past.

That’s not always a bad thing. I’m an adult with life experiences, wisdom and the inability to give any Fs about what strangers think of me. This makes me a better mom and role model for my girls. Still, it reminds me that my life is probably at the midway point, or pretty close. While possibilities are endless ahead of me, some things are irrefutably behind me; meeting someone, falling in love, getting married, having babies, and buying my first house. There are still firsts ahead of me, still lots of excitement and adventures to be had but that bright-eyed, the world is brand new time has passed for me.

We will never again be the women we were before becoming moms. We get older every year and deal with a laundry list of responsibilities that feels never-ending. But, just because we are getting older doesn’t mean we have to feel old. There are many ways to keep feeling youthful and vibrant, here are four effective approaches that will give you the energy to live your life the way you want without regrets. Don’t let the number of candles on your birthday cake determine how you live your life. 

Hang Out with Friends More Regularly 

Spending time with the people you consider closest to you is one of the best ways to encourage physical and mental well-being. When was the last time you and your friends had a night together? Granted, after the past year of the pandemic, peopling can be exhausting but totally worth it. Still, it can be challenging to stay in touch as your friends start families and have more commitments, but putting aside a night every month (especially if the kids are old enough) will do wonders for keeping you young. Sure, you won’t have the wild nights you once had in your youth, but you don’t need to. Instead, you can enjoy one another’s company for what it is and maintain your friendships for years.

Spend Time In Nature 

The link between nature and staying young is something you cannot underestimate. Getting away from the city and breathing in the fresh air will maintain excellent health and encourage you to feel more grateful for the world around you. It might not be an immediate change, but the more time you spend outside, whether you go on hikes, bike rides, or just go for a picnic will create a positive association with the outdoors, and you’ll look for as many excuses as you can to get outside. 

Know Your Limits 

Most people enjoy a drink after a stressful day at work, but you know you aren’t as young as you used to be. You will get to an age where even the smallest hangover can keep you bedridden all day long. Likewise, drinking can make you look older as you miss out on the sleep that’s crucial as you get older. Therefore, it’s important that you know your limits. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a tipple now and again but overdoing it will not do you any favors. 

Do Things for You 

Younger people will go through their early life worrying about what everyone thinks of them and this can stop them from reaching their potential. However, once you get older, you can start doing things for yourself, and this will make you feel younger. This means you can solve your grooming issues by finding ways to remove hair permanently, or you can dress however you like. You can follow hobbies and go on vacations to places you’ve always wanted, and you don’t need to worry about what anybody says about it. 

Forever Young

Many people are worried about trying to be too young for too long. They are concerned about missing the point of growing old gracefully. These ideas find the perfect balance between enjoying your life while still embracing getting older. 

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How to Help Your Child when They are Feeling Anxious, how to help a child with anxiety

If your child suffers from being anxious, you already know that watching them struggle with it the worst. As parents, we genuinely want to make everything better. But anxiety is not like a scraped knee, we can’t just kiss it or wish it away. But we also don’t have to watch it happen. There are things we can do, starting with support and considering professional help. Especially after this past year of living the pandemic life and the unthinkable lurking around every corner.

As their parents, kids expect us to be able to calm them, make them feel safe, remove that feeling of anxiety and dread that is rising up in them for whatever reason. They want us to take those anxious feelings away and make them feel happy and relaxed again. And as parents, that’s what we want too. The problem is, knowing what we want – and what our children want – and knowing how to make that happen are two separate issues, and the former is much easier than the letter. In fact, some parents can start to feel anxious themselves in this situation, as they don’t know what to say or do to make their child feel better. 

The past year and especially these past few weeks filled with upheaval and loss, we’ve all been a little anxious. The truth is there are no perfect words to say, and there is no perfect response because every child is different. However, doing something, even if it’s imperfect, is far better than doing nothing at all, and even if it doesn’t entirely quell your child’s fears, it can go a long way toward helping them, and it might give you an insight into their thoughts and feelings too, enabling you to be more proactive in the future.

How to help your child when they are feeling anxious

Always Be Empathetic 

One of the most important things your child will want from you when they are feeling anxious is to know that you understand how they feel. This is why empathy is so important; your child will be much more likely to come to you in the future with other issues if they know you are understanding. Suppose you brush away their concerns because you don’t personally understand why they

are worried, or you know that whatever their concern is isn’t really a big deal. In that case, they will pull away, and when there is something more problematic to worry them, they may stay silent, making them feel worse and causing potential behavioral problems. 

Empathy is an important trait to have, but it is not the same as sympathy, and this distinction is important. Sympathy is about acknowledging their anxiety and caring that they are upset. Empathy is about understanding the anxiety itself; you are putting yourself in their position, in other words. Although sympathy is not a negative thing, empathy is much better – it helps the child much more. 

When you are showing empathy, the best advice is to show emotion. If you stay cool and calm, it doesn’t matter what your words say; your child will get the feeling you don’t really understand what they are going through. 

Keep Them In The Moment 

When people – and this includes children – are anxious, they will start talking about ‘if only’ and ‘what if’, trying to think of a way that they can undo the problem. Of course, this is not possible, and it will only serve to make things more upsetting. You cannot go back in time and make good mistakes or change something so that whatever is causing the anxiety isn’t a problem. Yet as human beings, we seem to be conditioned to think along these lines, always working out ways we could have prevented this or that thing from occurring. 

If this is how your child is reacting, you can help them by keeping them in the present. Just listening and being fully present can mean everything. Simply reminding them that there is no point in worrying about the past probably won’t help; adults know this logically, and yet still they have the same concerns. What you can do is assist your child in being more mindful, so they concentrate only on the present. In this way, they can not only stop worrying about the past, but they can forget any upcoming worries too. To do this, you need to engage their senses. They need to name five things they can see to begin with, and then name four things they can touch. Then three things they can hear. This will bring their attention right back to the present and calm them considerably. 

Have a Ritual 

Rituals and routines are how children, teens (and many adults) run their lives, and they are comforting, even when the child is feeling anxious. Why not come up with your own ritual for when your child is feeling upset and worried? If you use it every time, and it’s one they can relate to and enjoy, then they will always have a tangible way to reduce their fears and to feel better. 

One idea might be to ‘press a button’. The button could be your nose or perhaps a nose ring you wear (or another piece of jewelry) or mole on your arm or anything else that could conceivably be a button. If the child is feeling anxious, get them to tell you what is wrong, and then have them ‘press the button’. When they do this, perhaps you can sing a silly song, tell a joke, or do an impression. Maybe they have to copy you. This will immediately turn a sad or scary situation into a funny one that they think of fondly. It’s good for children to have their own coping mechanisms, but if they can also have one that involves you and shows that you know what they are going through, this can help even more. 

The above idea is just one of so many you can come up with. It’s often best to think of your own rituals that relate to you and your child, as they will have the most positive impact and offer the biggest benefits. 

There are many different ways that we parents can help our anxious child but not all of them will have a positive effect. This is why it is crucial to ensure that we are empathetic and that we allow our children to say what’s on their minds and tell us how they are feeling. Try to assure them that their feelings are valid and talk them through. Even if you’re not sure what to do to help, just listening and understanding can be enough. 

How do you comfort your child when they are having anxiety about a new or stressful situation.

What’s your best tip for how to help your child when they are feeling anxious?

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Why You Should Care about the Mysterious Death of Marine Corporal Brandon Javier Alvarez , Corporal Brandon Javier Alvarez, #Justice4cplbrandonjavieralvarez, Thousands Oak marine found dead in Manama Bahrain, non-combat incident, a life stolen, Why Marine Cpl Brandon Javier Alvarez Life and Mysterious Death Matter

Yesterday, June 24, 2021, our family laid to eternal rest one of our very own, Marine Corporal Brandon Javier Alvarez and no one is okay. His death was dubious, untimely, inexplicable and there are no answers being provided by those who were charged with keeping him safe while he kept the nation safe. His life was stolen. There is no accountability. This is why you should care about the sudden, non-combat death of Marine Corporal Brandon Javier Alvarez. What’s insures your child’s safety and not his? He was here and now he’s just gone. Broken hearts and empty arms longing for one more hug with no reasonable explanation given. This makes closure impossible for his family and friends. Choking back emotions in order to share his story is all that we can do now. Helpless, distraught, devastated and angry not knowing what really happened to Brandon.

Brandon, like all young men his age, had his entire life ahead of him. He had a beautiful, smart girlfriend who he loved like you do when you’re 22-years-old, big and beautifully. He adored his mother and his siblings were his best friends, confidants and his ride or dies. You see, I know this life because this is how our family is at its root. Family and God are always first, with country close behind in our lives. We are raised that when you have nothing else in this world, you have your family and they have you and together everything is possible. We are strong, resilient, passionate and born of immigrants. We don’t quit, we work hard and we dream BIG. This is how we survive but the world can be cruel. It’s been particularly cruel these past few weeks.

Corporal Brandon Javier Alvarez, #Justice4cplbrandonjavieralvarez, Thousands Oak marine found dead in Manama Bahrain, non-combat incident, a life stolen

Brandon joined the United States Marine Corp as part of his American dream and he was on his way to realizing his dreams of marrying the girl he loved, giving his mother a house of her own and becoming the man he wanted to be; living the life he dreamed of with the people he loved. He knew to do that, he had to do the work and make the sacrifices to get where he wanted to be.

Why Marine Cpl Brandon Javier Alvarez Life and Mysterious Death Matter

Why you should care about the sudden, non-combat death of Marine Corporal Brandon Javier Alvarez

A few weeks ago a happy, healthy young 22-year-old man made the ultimate sacrifice of leaving the family, girlfriend and home he loved to serve the people of the United States of America in Manama Bahrain. No one thought the last time they saw him would be the last time they ever say him.

Why Marine Cpl Brandon Javier Alvarez Life and Mysterious Death Matter

It was the first time he’d been so far away from home alone but he eagerly accepted the assignment because he knew what came next would mean he could provide the kind of life he wanted to give to his family. His beautiful, big and closely knit family who kept in contact daily even though separated continents apart. Time and space are irrelevant when it comes to family, at least in our family. Our parents instill this into us as tiny children and it sticks because family really is everything. We know that in our bones.

Corporal Brandon Javier Alvarez, #Justice4cplbrandonjavieralvarez, Thousands Oak marine found dead in Manama Bahrain, non-combat incident

One night, two weeks after arriving in Bahrain, after a phone call with his brother and before his daily phone call with his beloved girlfriend, his life was stolen. Where a kind, caring, loving son/ brother/ uncle/ boyfriend was just a few minutes previous, he was no longer. That quickly, the world was flipped upside down and inside out.

This isn’t the first time a sudden, non-combat death with no reasonable explanation to the family has happened and if we don’t get justice for Brandon, it will happen again

Two marines arrived at his mother’s house to inform her that her son was gone. Just that quickly a family was shattered, changed forever, unimaginable pain, sorrow and anger left where all that love once was; all that promise now a life unrealized and there was nothing they could do to undo it.

Corporal Brandon Javier Alvarez, #Justice4cplbrandonjavieralvarez, Thousands Oak marine found dead in Manama Bahrain, non-combat incident

The thing is Brandon’s life was precious to so many people. People who are not afraid to be loud and speak out. We’re not the type to just accept that one of our children is dead without explanation and that be the end of it. There has to be an explanation. No human being can just disappear from this earth and those who loved him or her just nod their heads, cry and get over it. There is no “getting over” losing a child, a brother, a sister, a mother, a father, an uncle, an aunt or a husband or partner. Life is precious and we know that to our core. We’ve lost people before and we hold tight to one another.

Corporal Brandon Javier Alvarez, #Justice4cplbrandonjavieralvarez, Thousands Oak marine found dead in Manama Bahrain, non-combat incident, a life stolen, Why Marine Cpl Brandon Javier Alvarez Life and Mysterious Death Matter

To the military Brandon may have been just another soldier. A young, Mexican-American man willing to give his life to protect this country that our parents came to to give their children a promise of a better future. This country that they are so thankful and grateful to have the opportunity to live in. But to his family and those who knew and loved him, we can’t let it go. We demand and deserve to have the truth.

Corporal Brandon Javier Alvarez, #Justice4cplbrandonjavieralvarez, Thousands Oak marine found dead in Manama Bahrain, non-combat incident, a life stolen

All of my aunt’s tears will never bring him back into her arms. This immeasurable loss can never be recouped. The emptiness that lurks beneath the sadness and anger is just waiting to swallow her whole because in the end, Brandon is gone. No one knows that more astutely than a mother.

He’ll never get to grow up. Never get to marry his beautiful girlfriend and start the family he dreamed of. He’ll never get to dance with his baby sister at her quinceañera. He’ll never get to be the best man at his brothers’ weddings. Brandon won’t be around to give his little sister brotherly advice or joke and laugh with his oldest sister. He’ll never get to see his nephew graduate high school.

Why Marine Cpl Brandon Javier Alvarez Life and Mysterious Death Matter

He’ll never walk into a room and grab his mother and dance cumbia with her just because and she’ll never get to hear his laugh or see his dimples ever again. When he died, all of those possibilities died with him; a part of everyone who loved him died on June 6th in Bahrain too. I know this because we are from the same people. I too am 1 of 6 children and I know how close that bond is, sometimes it’s hard to tell where you end and your brother/sister begins.

To the marines, he may have been “government property” but to those who knew and loved him, he was a light. He is a hero whose life was stolen. The investigation is ongoing.

Corporal Brandon Javier Alvarez, #Justice4cplbrandonjavieralvarez, Thousands Oak marine found dead in Manama Bahrain, non-combat incident

The only information that the Marine Corps is providing is:

Rank: Corporal

Name: Brandon J. Alvarez

Unit: Fleet Anti-Terrorism Support Team Central Command

(FASTCENT), NSA Manama Bahrain, Marine Corps Security

Force Regiment

Dates of Service: November 26, 2018- Service Join Date

May 21, 2021- June 6, 2021- Assigned FASTCENT NSA, Manama Bahrain.

Previous Command: July 18, 2019- May 20, 2021- Marine Corps Air Station Miramar San Diego

But Marine Cpl Brandon Javier Alvarez was so much more than that to those who loved him.

Corporal Brandon Javier Alvarez, #Justice4cplbrandonjavieralvarez, Thousands Oak marine found dead in Manama Bahrain, non-combat incident, a life stolen

I watched his funeral live-streamed from 2000 miles away, I watched as my Tia, cousins and all those who loved him were brought to their knees at this loss. It’s devastating to see my family in so much pain and I am angry that they are going through this. I’m angry that they are being given no answers. Mostly, I’m mad that Brandon is no longer here to live the big, full, beautiful life he had planned. None of this makes any sense.

Why Marine Cpl Brandon Javier Alvarez Life and Mysterious Death Matter

Please keep sharing his story and help us get the truth and justice that he deserves. #Justice4CplBrandonJavierAlvarez

Click Here to help the family find justice for CPL Brandon Javier Alvarez and prevent other military families from going through this.

Why You Should Care about the Mysterious Death of Marine Corporal Brandon Javier Alvarez

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